The only way to achieve balance is to realize you will never have it.
Many years ago I blew out my knee while skiing. It was the last run of the day for me and I decided to take a different course. Skiing in Colorado has its benefits and drawbacks in mid-March. The benefit is it’s much warmer. The drawback is you could be skiing on slush instead of snow. That’s what happened to me as I was finishing my run. I hit a patch of slush, lost control, and wiped out. Normally this just leads to what looks like an ugly mess with snow flying everywhere and me covered head to toe. That day was different. The ski planted in the snowpack as I fell and the binding didn’t pop as it should. The only pop that followed was a loud noise coming from my knee and my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) was gone.
At this time in my life I was still ‘indestructible’. Pretty much every accident I had in life meant I jumped up, dusted off, and went about my business. In fact it was two months of stubbornness for me to finally go to the doctor and find out what was going on with a leg that seemed to develop a mind of its own. What followed was surgery to replace the torn ligament along with about six months of recovery.
It’s hard to imagine how things like walking, running, and jumping are taken for granted until you are on crutches and your knee is the size of a watermelon. Rehabilitation began with range of motion, basic strength training, and balance. I would see a therapist weekly to go through the routines and learn new techniques to rebuild the muscles that had atrophied due to the damage and surgery. What was simple before the surgery was now difficult especially when it came to balance. One of the torture, I mean rehabilitation, devices was a round pice of plywood with half of a ball attached to the bottom. The goal: place your feet on the board and attempt to balance on the ball without the plywood touching the ground.
This would have been difficult with two good knees and in the beginning seemed impossible with one bad one. Over time as my leg strengthened I began to figure out the balance board. My therapist would coach me on technique and I would eventually be able to maintain my balance. Then she changed it to a larger ball. Sadist…
Stuck on Your Crutches
Many of my clients come to me because something is broken. It’s not that the company is in jeopardy, nor is it because they aren’t making a good income. What gets them is things aren’t running the way the should be and the very reason they started the business has become the trap that’s imprisoned them. Invincibility gave way to the crutches of constant fires and a seemingly endless host of problems they can never seem to escape.
Along come the business gurus who tout work/life balance and the perfect harmony it provides. The elixir they are selling promises a simple solution to making the ideal life work. I mean, what business owner doesn’t want complete balance in their life? However there’s a problem with the concept of work/life balance. It doesn’t exist. True balance can NEVER be achieved and once you understand that, you can create it. Wait! What??
Remember my story of the balance board? That’s a lot like life and work. Many of us go through life with dreams of the freedom our company will bring. When sales and profits start taking off we may get that false sense of invincibility that we’ve made it until we hit the slush. More employees mean more questions. Different skill sets mean people do things differently than you would. Not being able to do everything means others have to carry the load.
Ultimately your team never seems to treat the business you’ve nurtured and grown the same way you would. Every waking hour becomes consumed with making sure your company has the resources it needs to sustain the growth you want. Vacations become remote offices. Your significant other and children, if they are in the picture, seem to take a back seat to making sure the bills are paid. Just like staying up on the balance board with a bad knee, the simple now seems impossible.
That is where you have to understand the mechanics of balance. Whether it’s on a balance board or riding a bike, the balance we perceive is not possible. Many factors go into keeping you upright. Your body makes continuous micro adjustments to keep you stable. So in reality, you are always out of balance and some part of your body is compensating for that through your movement.
Your work/life balance is no different. You need to constantly adjust. There are times your business will require more of your attention. The same is true with your family. The trick is knowing which ‘muscles’ to engage and when. If we haven’t put this into practice the process can be painful. A law of the universe is for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means when starting to create balance there may be wild swings with imbalance.
Taking the First Steps Towards Balance
Removing yourself from the daily grind involves having a team of people around you to support your company. Teaching them, while giving them purpose and autonomy is crucial if you are ever going to be able to stand on that ball. Letting go and not overcompensating during this process can be scary. But over time the major swings now turn into micro adjustments. Here’s what you need to do:
- Trust – Put your trust in your team. Believe in their abilities. If you can’t, you have the wrong team.
- Coach – The primary role of the leader is to develop the skills in others to handle the needs of the business. If you spend all your time doing instead of coaching you need to change your habits.
- Communicate – It can’t be said enough. Effective communication is the foundation of building a balanced life. Often we don’t share enough information as frequently as we should.
- Accountability – With trust comes the verify. If you need something done a certain way you need to guide your team to the desired outcomes and follow up! Checking in is different than micro-management. Know the difference.
- Step Back – Balanced lifestyles mean giving yourself room to breath and do something non-work related. Take time away were you can remove the phone or the email from your routine.
- Be present – This is true at work as well as at home. It can also be difficult due to the constant distractions and interruptions. Be present with your team so you can coach them effectively. Know when to step away and be willing to do the same at home.
- Work – Place the effort where it’s needed. That means if you have to roll up your sleeves at work, do it! Creating balance isn’t about checking out nor does it mean you can neglect what needs to be done. Remember, others are watching. If you are taking extra time and neglecting what needs to be done at the office, you will only breed a culture that wants to do the same.
- Get Support – Reach out to others to help hold you accountable and learn the tools to create the balance you desire.
Taking these steps can help you get closer to the impossible. Once you understand the balance board is always out of balance you can make the changes necessary to stand up straight. Let the healing begin!